In comments at a cyber-security forum, an NSA official said the agency's systems must be built with the assumption adversaries will get in.
The National Security Agency appears to be taking some old advice to heart-assume
your organization will be compromised.
Debora Plunkett, head of the NSA's Information Assurance Directorate, said
as much Dec. 16 at a cyber-security
sponsored by the Atlantic and Government
Executive media organization.
"We have to build our systems on the assumption that adversaries will
get in," she reportedly told attendees.
are going to go unnoticed on our networks,"
The comments follow the fallout from the WikiLeaks situation, where some
diplomatic cables were posted online. Plunkett declined comment on the
incident, but did state during her comments that "there's no such thing as
In July, the NSA revealed some details for a project
called "Perfect Citizen"
after information leaked out to the
press. The agency described the program as a "vulnerabilities-assessment
and capabilities-development" effort meant to help the NSA "better
understand the threats to national security networks."
In her comments, Plunkett said the United
States cannot put its trust "in
different components of the system that might have already been violated."
"We have to, again, assume that all the components of our system are
not safe, and make sure we're adjusting accordingly," she said.
Gartner analyst John Pescatore said Plunkett's comments actually
reflect an old position at the NSA.
"Basically, unless the hardware and software was built by NSA and has
NSA-approved tamper protection, it can't be trusted," he wrote in an
e-mail. "Since even NSA has to use commercial hardware and software, their
own environments can't be trusted! That's why they have the High Assurance
Computing effort, defining what would have to be implemented in all IT in order
for them to trust it.
"This sounds drastic, but not so much different than what good
enterprise security practice is-assume you will be compromised, so do
vulnerability scanning, network forensics, etc., to see if you are," he